Raymond van Barneveld breaks down in front of our very eyes
It was a moment that sucked you into the screen as, with Rob Cross patting him on the back to say commiserations, Raymond van Barneveld didn't even turn to look.
He had the head down, he was going through the motions and, as he packed up his darts, you didn't have to be a body language expert to tell that this man was in pain. The issue wasn't with his opponent - and that's what made the moment even sadder - this was a man at war with himself.
Barney was defeated.
He had taken out the big fish on his way to the first set but even then, the lead seemed futile. He walked off the stage to a rip-roaring reception but, truth be told, this game hadn't even started. Cross, with a bog-standard average of 77, had gifted him the set and Barney would have done well to lose.
The game was about to start now.
Cross composed himself in the dressing room only to find out, soon after he returned, that there would be no game tonight. The 2018 champ fired in a few 180s, a couple 140s, mostly 90s and that was the one little push was all it took to send the Dutch-man over the edge.
Rare to see a great fall apart so openly in sport. Van Barnaveld was tortured on stage. So visible. Hard not to feel for the guy.
— Ewan MacKenna (@EwanMacKenna) December 23, 2021
Cross took out 93 to win the first leg of the second set and from there, as he wrestled with his emotions, as his face became glummer and glummer to the extent that he looked to be in physical pain, Barney barely threw a dart. He's a champion, a five-time world champion who has won some of this sport's greatest ever battles but tonight he was listless, he was on autopilot and he was beaten.
The light has been dying for a while now - Barney retired in 2019 having been trounced by Michael van Gerwen in their homeland. Back in 2017, after another almighty battle with MVG, Barney came to the realisation, in heartbreaking circumstances, that he's just not good enough anymore.
But the clips below are the clearest evidence yet.
⚡️𝗖𝗿𝗼𝘀𝘀 𝗱𝗲𝗳𝗲𝗮𝘁𝘀 𝗕𝗮𝗿𝗻𝗲𝘆!
🎯Rob Cross overcomes Raymond van Barneveld in an absorbing contest! The 2018 champion has set up a third round meeting with Daryl Gurney! pic.twitter.com/okxMERxu89
— Sky Sports Darts (@SkySportsDarts) December 23, 2021
— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) December 23, 2021
He was in no mood to talk last night but if you go back to 2019, when he retired in Rotterdam, those words are as fitting now as they were then.
"I'm a Five-time world champion and I was thinking ‘Do I deserve this? I don’t think so’ but it is reality. I’m not good enough.
“For me I’ve made a decision I am done now. I don’t want the pain any more. It’s pain every single week for the last three or four years. I’m OK with this decision. I’m relieved. I’m done.”
“I don’t have the energy to start from scratch again,” he added.
“I can say to myself ‘OK Ray, take some time off’, but there is no time because at the end of the year is the world championship. It is good to see everyone loves you but they don’t have one single clue what I’m going through.”